Chronic health conditions can become increasingly more prominent as people enter their vintage years. One such condition that affects nearly 60 million people around the world is arthritis.
Arthritis is the term for more than 100 conditions that affect the joints, tissues around the joint, and other connective tissues. It can cause daily challenges for people with this disorder, requiring extra compassion, patience, and effort from their caregivers.
As September is Arthritis Awareness Month in Canada, we thought we’d write about how you can help support an older loved one diagnosed with this painful condition.
Understanding arthritis in older adults
The two most common forms of arthritis affecting older people are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease resulting from cartilage wear and tear over time. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes joint inflammation.
The constant joint discomfort associated with arthritis can significantly reduce one’s quality of life, limiting mobility so severely that such simple tasks as walking, dressing, or even holding a cup can become arduous. Hobbies such as painting, knitting, or playing a musical instrument can be tricky, too. The older person might also stop participating in social activities they once enjoyed, which can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
The good news is that as a caregiver, you can help your older loved one with arthritis lead a happy, fulfilling life.
How caregivers can help older people with arthritis
Caregiving is a complex, demanding role that extends beyond providing physical care to being a source of emotional and psychological support, especially if the person has been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as arthritis.
Here’s how you can help your older loved one cope with arthritis:
Learn about arthritis
Educating yourself about the different kinds of arthritis and how they can affect your loved one will help you understand how to approach arthritis care. Ask the person’s doctor for pamphlets or visit the Arthritis Foundation website for comprehensive information and valuable resources.
This is a top priority for caregivers when caring for someone with arthritis. Pain management can involve administering prescription medication, applying hot or cold packs, and assisting with gentle exercises to maintain joint flexibility.
Mobility is a significant challenge for older adults with arthritis. You can provide physical support such as helping the person get out of bed, assisting with walking aids like canes or walkers, and keeping the home environment as safe as possible to navigate.
Helping protect the older person’s emotional well-being is also crucial. Offer emotional support, lend an empathetic listening ear, and be respectful of the person’s struggles. Keeping them encouraged and motivated can go a long way in helping them maintain a positive outlook.
The older adult might require assistive devices such as joint braces, splints, or specialized utensils to make daily tasks easier, depending on the severity of the condition. You can help by selecting, maintaining, and assisting your loved one when they use these aids.
Nutrition and diet
A balanced diet is crucial for managing arthritis symptoms. Ensure that your loved one with arthritis eats nutritious meals that promote joint health and weight management. Consulting with a dietitian can help ensure a delicious mix of healthy food perfect for people living with arthritis.
Attend their doctor’s appointments
If possible, accompany your loved one to doctor’s appointments. Offer to ask questions, take notes, and serve as a second set of ears in case the person feels overwhelmed or confused by their arthritis diagnosis or management plan.
Seek out support groups
Your loved one might find additional support from people who have the same condition. Find online or in-person support groups for people with arthritis so they hear inspirational stories from others living with arthritis.
The importance of self-care for caregivers
Caring for an older adult with arthritis can be emotionally and physically taxing. It can also be emotionally distressing to witness a loved one struggle and be in pain due to arthritis. Managing your own physical and mental health is critical to avoiding caregiver burnout and being able to continue maintaining an optimal level of care.
Remember, you don’t have to be alone in this. When you need a break from caregiving to help practice good self-care, CareHop is only a phone call away.
Quality in-home elder care services in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton
CareHop specializes in providing safe, quality eldercare services when you need a
helping hand. Our goal is to bring peace of mind to families while protecting their loved one’s health and well-being.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion to discover how we can help you.